“On Being” rather than “on campaigning”: Alain de Botton’s “School of Life”

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Alain de Botton: A School of Life for Atheists

Drawing on philosophical, religious, and spiritual ideas, Mr. de Botton provides his perspectives on life, love, community, art, work, happiness, luck, architecture, optimism, pessimism . . .  Part of his magic is that he makes us laugh while presenting serious ideas; talking about impotence, pessimism, failure, and how hard life is; and challenging cherished beliefs or ideas.

I agree with Mr. de Botton that it’s crazy to pretend that creating a functional, happy, meaningful life—“adulting” as some of my friends put it (“Adulting is hard!”) —is easy and obvious and we don’t need education or guidance on the biggest life questions.   I wish there was a “School of Life”  in my neighborhood!

I really appreciate that Mr. de Botton is an atheist who is also respectful and appreciative of parts of religious practices.  He has no desire to join or stoke a “culture war” regarding God.  My experience is that this is true of many religious skeptics and atheists (though mass culture media would have us believe otherwise).

From the “On Being” website:  Alain de Botton is a philosopher who likes the best of religion, but doesn’t believe in God. So he’s created “The School of Life,” a secular community in London.  He explains why wisdom and ritual shouldn’t be reserved just for believers. 

Mr. de Botton has several great talks (sermons); two you can begin with:

  1. His TED talk on “A Kinder, Gentler Philosophy of Success
  2. His Google/Zeitgeist talk on love (“This is really what it means to love: which is to be generous in the interpretation of the behaviors of another person”).


Photo courtesy of Susannp4 at Pixabay.

Alexandra Marchosky
Alexandra Marchosky
I coach individuals and organizations to do and be better by more fully living their values.
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